Rather than take the faster I-5 route to Monterey we opted to take Hwy 101 instead (most of the way anyway). With some ocean views, and not much more time, it would take us through Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Salinas. It was a beautifully sunny day and not too hot. There were views of the ocean as well as driving past wine, almond and pistachio orchards.
We stopped in Santa Barbara with the sole intent on having some McConnell's ice cream again! Luckily it was also lunch time and we needed fuel. Worked out perfectly.
Lunch was at El Pollo Loco. We'd never been but heard good things. It was surprisingly fresh and didn't taste like "fast food". Fresh sauces, grilled chicken, guacamole and tortillas. Plus, the staff was super friendly.
Then we drove over to McConnell's. I was a tad disappointed to learn that the L.A. version is a bit different that the Santa Barbara version. So, no "Breakfast of Champions" shake. Enter sad face. Ellie and I both opted for a scoop of the salted caramel chip which wasn't a terrible second choice. We were happy.
The rest of the drive to Monterey was uneventful but quite beautiful really. There was one horrible moment of realization as we drove right past Firestone Walker Brewing with no time to stop!! Really sad to miss that opportunity. I'd gladly do that drive again though and make the time. My one consolation, we chose to have dinner at the Cannery Row Brewing Company in Monterey. They have all kinds of local beers and wines. Lucky for me they had Firestone Walker DBA (double barrel ale) on tap. So...at least there was that.
My other disappointment was that even though the restaurant was named Cannery Row Brewing, they don't seem to actually brew beer!
They make up for that by having really really excellent food! And a fabulous beer selection. Pfew. Dinner was saved.
I wasn't terribly hungry so I opted for a salad and clam chowder. Paul got the sand dabs (a flatfish caught right in Monterey) and we could just share. The salad was substantial. Not just boring iceburg lettuce and the clam chowder had a nice amount of bacon to make it quite good. The real star though was the sand dabs. Panko crusted, with lemon-shallot butter and served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Definitely a happy surprise after a rough start. We were perfectly content when we left.
Knowing we wouldn't have any time the next day to explore the town we opted to walk down from the restaurant to see the ocean. Then we drove out to the lighthouse just on the edge of town. Such a beautiful town. Business signs are kept low profile so you don't just see advertisements but also the trees, well kept homes and quaint scenery.